Issues: Whether the petitioner's appeal was timely; MCR 7.204(A)(3); MCR 2.602; Amendment of a trust; Estates & Protected Individuals Code (MCL 700.1101 et seq.); Whether a letter qualified as an amendment to the trust; In re Stillwell Trust
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Bisbiks Trust
e-Journal Number: 58652
Judge(s): Per Curiam – O'Connell, Cavanagh, and Fort Hood
The court held that the trial court did not err by granting the respondent-trustee's motion to dismiss the petitioner-widow's request to construe a letter as an amendment to the Trust. She filed a request to construe an undated, handwritten letter as an amendment to the trust. The trial court granted respondent's motion for summary disposition, holding that the letter "did not amend the trust agreement because it was undated, did not reference to the trust agreement, and did not indicate [the decedent's] intent to alter or amend the trust agreement." On appeal, the court first rejected respondent's claim that petitioner's appeal was untimely, noting that "respondent did not file an opposing affidavit within 14 days after being served with the claim of appeal and affidavit." However, it also rejected petitioner's argument that the letter altered the terms of the trust agreement because it substantially complied with MCL 700.7602(3)(a), holding that the handwritten letter did not clearly indicate the decedent's intent to amend the trust. First, it noted that the letter "was undelivered and was addressed to petitioner, the settlor's wife, using the personal salutation 'My dearest Clarissa' and ended with the closing 'Love, Pete.' The language used does not suggest that it was intended to alter the distribution of the trust assets. Further, there was no envelope indicating that the letter pertained to the distribution of the estate in any way." It also noted that there was no directive and nothing referring to the terms of the trust in conjunction with the inconsistent language in the letter, and that it contained language that strongly suggested that he did not intend to alter his trust. As such, the court concluded that "the single inconsistency between the list in the letter and the distribution of assets mandated by the amended trust agreement does not amount to substantial compliance with the trust provision allowing amendment of the trust agreement." Affirmed.
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